Monday, August 29, 2011

Rockabilly Hall of Famer B. Jeff Stone Passes Away

Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee B. Jeff Stone passed away Friday at the age of 75. Stone worked with Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson and Jim Ed Brown and headed up bands called The Westernaires and The Newsboys.

From his Rockabilly Hall of Fame bio:

B. Jeff Stone was born in San Antonio, Texas, on April 24, 1936. He is the youngest of three boys born to parents, Aaron and Elaine Stone. In his early teens, Jeff played and sang at school programs and began writing music at 18 years of age. When he was 18, he carried his songs and guitar to Charlie Fitch who owned a small record company (SARG) located in Luling, Texas. With all the confidence in the world, he walked in and told Mr. Fitch that he wanted to record some of the songs he had written. Charlie laughed and invited B. J. to sing some of them. Fitch was impressed and asked if he would record two of the compositions. One side of the "45" was "The Clown" and the flip side was "Everybody Rock".

In the late 1980s, ACE Records in England purchased the master and rights and again released the music on their London label; this was some 30 years after having been recorded by Stone. A short time after the London release, a label in Sweden purchased the master and released the music for the third time on their label.

At about the same time, Jeff approached Doc Parker who owned a radio station in Pleasonton, Texas (KBOP) - Willie Nelson and Johnny Bush were both working at the station at the time - and asked if he could have a 30-minute live radio show on Saturdays. After an audition, Parker agreed and the show was called JEFF STONE AND HIS TEXAS CUT-UPS.

After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Stone returned to San Antonio determined to have a career in music. He organized THE WESTERNAIRS, a five-piece country band, and enjoyed success in the San Antonio area. The door finally opened when Nashville producer, Tommy Hill asked him to come to Nashville for a recording session. Stone recorded four of his own compositions, one of which became a national hit, "Hey, Little Newsboy". Because of the success of the song, Jeff's band changed their name to THE NEWSBOYS. With hand-picked musicians, Bobby Stone (as he was known then) toured and played across the U.S. with his band. The many locations included Las Vegas, the LBJ Ranch during his presidency, clubs, fairs and rodeos. He had a new booking agent, Billy Deaton, who was also managing Faron Young at the time.

Working on the road and managing a band became an ordeal and to slow down, Stone broke up his band and began working as a single act, touring and working with such greats as Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Jim Ed Brown and other legends. Jeff has starred on many albums produced by the U.S. Air Force, recorded in Nashville, and aired throughout the United States. He formed Newsboy Publishing in the 1960s through B.M.I. which he still owns.

In 1974, B. Jeff went through a burn-out period. In a recent interview he said: "I was tired and the excitement was gone that I had always felt when I walked on stage. I didn't feel the music and each performance became a chore. I realized it wasn't fair to the fans or myself." And the entertainer, that Marty Robbins once said would be one of the top country artists someday, walked out of the spotlight. B. Jeff started his own construction company, one that grew to be successful.

In 1995, with the love of music still intact and a desire to record again, B. Jeff called his old friend and record producer, Tommy Hill, in Nashville to get his thoughts on cutting a new album. They released EVERYBODY LOVES ME on Tommy's label (HILLTON) and distributed the ten-song CD in Europe. There was a big question mark in the mind of B. Jeff: "After 21 years, will my music be accepted?" After all this time, knowing that country music had gone through a drastic change, it was Jeff's opinion that many of the artists were nothing but a cast of young look-alike imitators! The question was quickly answered when play lists and letters of acceptance from European country radio came in on a daily basis. B. JEFF WAS BACK!!!

EVERYBODY LOVES ME became album of the week in England and numerous cuts crowded the European charts. "A Good Woman's Love" became a mainstay, being one of Europe's favorites. The song was one of B. Jeff's biggest hits to that date with his "Hey, Little Newsboy" running a close second, hitting Number 2 in the U.S. charts. B. Jeff recalled: "The good songs come to you in the blink of an eye; it's as though the good Lord is sending you a message. I wrote "Hey, Little Newsboy" on a napkin while having lunch at a San Antonio restaurant. "A Good Woman's Love" came to me one night while returning home from a performance." The title cut "Everybody Loves Me", another of B.J.'s compositions, became Europe's Number 9 album and made B. Jeff Stone the fourth-most-played artist in Europe.

In 1996, Stone came back with his second album, SOMETHING'S GOING ON, a CD which was again released in Europe but on his own label, Gold Crest International. Stone says: "I have never liked recording on other labels; there are too many draw-backs! You never know where your music is being played or what it is doing; you are only handed bits and pieces of information from busy record representatives. The incoming mail is seldom seen and I am a firm believer that any mail from country radio stations or fans should be answered. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is that you have no control over your destiny!"

From that 1996 release came "The Other Side of Town" which hit European charts and was listed high in the World's Top 500 (all types of music). Bringing chuckles from millions was "Honey Do" another hit that incidently became the DJ's "rest" song because of it's five-minute play time. "Starlet Angel" and "Patricia's Song" (a song written for his wife) were also chart makers. Again, all four songs were penned by B. Jeff Stone.

In 1998, B. Jeff changed the name of his label to Nashville Gold Records, a title befitting the new album TEXAS COUNTRY which produced three major hits. "Texas Country Boy" reached the number one spot in Scandinavia and was number two in all of Europe. "The Blizzard" became number one in Scandinavia and in Europe. "Hello, Mr. Heartache" held the number one spot in Europe for an unheard-of sixteen weeks. The album became one of the Top Country Albums of 1998.

B. Jeff Stone won ten major country awards in 1999. He was named Europe's number one Traditional Country Artist by E.C.M.A.  He was inducted into Florida's Greater Southern Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and inducted into the European ICMAG Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was inducted into the Texas-Lone Star State Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was nominated for the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame.

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